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You’re Not Supposed to Die

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I have few hard and fast rules I hand out to friends. I mean, friendships aren’t supposed to be about rules and should develop naturally. Listen, honey, I’ve never played by the rules. Anyone’s rules. But I have absolutely no problem asking others to play, eat, sleep, work, and live by the ones I create.

I’m a contrary bitch. I know this. Best for you to just accept it and deal with it.

So, this rule thing I have…

As I mentioned, I have few rules, but the ones I have are pretty reasonable, I think.

  1. Treat me with respect. I’ll do the same for you. Promise.
  2. Honesty trumps all. Except when I absolutely do look fat in my jeans and then, find some tactful and clever way to get me to change without telling me I look like an elephant, okay?
  3. Be forgiving. I screw up from time to time. I’ll forgive you your transgressions if you forgive me mine.
  4. Don’t die on me.

It’s that last one that seems to be the most difficult rule for people to accept. Sure, they all say they won’t die on me, but they sometimes do. And when they do, strange things happen to me.

I start off strong and accepting, clear and focused, and then I slowly fall apart. Sometimes it takes months. Sometimes weeks. And sometimes, I just skip the days thing and go right to hours.

Since learning of Buddy Blue’s death, I’ve done the email and phone call thing. I’ve made plans to attend the memorial service. And, I’ve gone about my business as a means to keep myself occupied.

As the day wore on, I was slowing noticeably. I could attribute that to the fact that I’d been up since 2 a.m., or I could attribute that to the stress of bad news. The fact is, despite my stoic and sometimes aloof demeanor, it was simply too much to deal with.

I wasn’t a long-time friend of Buddy’s. Nor were we particularly close as far as “hey, c’mon over for a BBQ and some tunes” types of friends go, but we had a special friendship that allowed us the opportunity to know each other in our own weird way. Many emails, a few phone calls, the occasional personal encounter out in public, that’s what we had. And that still gave us plenty of material to work with.

As I’ve talked with a few of Buddy’s other friends, they’ve said much the same thing. They didn’t feel they had the right to call themselves friends because they hadn’t known him for years and years. The thing that I keep coming back to is that friendship is based on several things. Intimacy, mutual respect, and concern. Tell me that’s not what friendship is.

After my surgery last year, who called to check on me? Who emailed me frequently to make sure I was okay, to see if I needed anything, and to send me stories to make me laugh? Take a guess. Isn’t that what friends do?

And we shared things. That’s the intimate part of the friendship. Maybe if we’d spent time eating greasy ribs or chasing kids together we wouldn’t have ventured down some of the roads we did. I count myself very lucky for getting to know Buddy as I did. I consider myself lucky that he wanted to know about me. Of course, that led to weird conversations and the occasional knowledge challenge.

I couldn’t win an argument with Buddy if my life depended on it. Any topic, any point; he could talk circles around me. However, there was one time that I prevailed. No, even better than that. I was crowned by the king himself as having bested him.

The one thing I truly trumped him on was sinus surgery. For a few months we had a Mexican standoff over whose sinuses sucked more. In the end, he conceded and declared me the most mucoid bitch in the world. What a distinction, eh?

I’m sure his concession was genuine because he wasn’t the sort of man who gave in or stepped back from a challenge, especially when he believed himself right. He usually was and everyone knew that.

So, the thing is, despite this little memory and the smiles over seeing him performing via videos of yesteryear, I’m tapped out. I’ve hit my emotional rock bottom. And some would think it’s strange that this would happen over someone I “barely knew”. I won’t try to explain any of that again (weren’t you paying attention?). It was what it was. And now I’m sinking. I’m unfocused and scattered and starting to show all the signs of falling apart.

The question is why. And I know why. It was just a few months ago that I almost lost one of my best friends. Mike spent 22 days in a coma, which meant we had 22 days of uncertainty, 22 days of fearing the worst, praying for the best, and trying to keep it all together. I went inward. I kept it all to myself as much as I could. I cried a little here and there, but I tried to stifle that as much as possible.

Fast forward to Saturday evening when I was at a party to celebrate Mike’s survival. He was there with his new haircut, bandage on his head, his cane, family and friends gathered ’round. It was an evening full of laughter and silliness and ducks and candy. Don’t ask about the ducks.

I left there on a high, came home, and promptly fell asleep. It took a lot out of me (physically and emotionally) to be there, but I really wouldn’t have missed it for the world. When I woke up in the wee hours Sunday morning, I didn’t feel right. There was something wrong, but not something I could put my finger on. I felt as though I had had too much fun the night before (you know you’re getting older when too much fun consists of a party without alcohol and you’re home before 10 p.m.) and was going to have to pay the price somehow. I shrugged it off and went about digging through emails and messing with photos from the party.

Come 2 p.m., I was weepy and feeling completely out of sorts for some reason. Something still wasn’t right and I didn’t know what it was. I struggled with a few things here and there, and then I finally went to bed.

Upon awakening, I found out Buddy had died. Time of death? 2:38 p.m.

Call it a coincidence or whatever you want, that’s how it went down.

I’ve written his obit, made many phone calls, and have shed a tear or two. Mostly, I spent the last day or so thinking of the many ways he touched my life.

I began to compare his fate with that of Mike. For a moment I felt guilty that I’d been celebrating Mike’s recovery while this other dear man was hours from death. But there’s no way I could have known. And there’s no exchange of life in God’s book that I’ve ever heard tell of. The one thing I know for certain is that we cannot spend our lives waiting for the other shoe to drop. In doing so, we lose sight of all that brings meaning to our lives. Unable to enjoy the music and the poetry and the breathtaking beauty of all that surrounds us, we fail to fulfill our potential as humans.

I’m grateful that Mikey is alive. And, I’m grateful for my friends and family. I’m saddened by Buddy’s death. But, I’m also really grateful for a year of laughter and insight from a man who had thought me worthy of his time. Trust me when I say he didn’t expend that sort of energy on everyone. But I was fortunate enough to benefit from my “mentor”. I’ll miss him much and I will remember him as I go about the business of living.

Except I’ve lost sight of the business of living for today.

Mike almost broke the no-dying rule a couple months ago. And Buddy couldn’t just “almost” do anything. Buddy should have understood my last rule. Wasn’t he the one who sang “No Right To Die” (fuck if it means the same thing I’m talking about here)? Yes, in fact he was. He should have known better. But then again, rules were for other people.

So, forgive my maudlin and self-absorbed moments here. I need to regroup before Friday. Because, honestly, I don’t want to spend the day crying when I know there will be many stories that will leave people laughing. I don’t care if other people accept my friendship with him as valid or not. In my world, this is what friendship was about. So I’m going to mourn and I’m going to come to terms with his death in my own way.

I hope that someday I can believe all those sunny thoughts I wrote about living life and remembering without falling apart hours later. Until then, I’m off to weep and sleep, with the hopes that I might awaken to actually be useful to those who depend on me. Bear with me. I’ll be back before you know it, busting someone’s balls and writing some otherwise completely insane review or whatnot.

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About Joan Hunt

  • I’ll look for you on Friday, Howard. I’ll email you my phone number. Oh, and another of Buddy’s pals is bringing me a DVD of performances. I think I could be persuaded to share.

  • Joanie, don’t worry about taking it so hard. Buddy was a special person and he even though he had this reputation for being some sort of jerk at times, he had a way of making everybody around him feel important.

    When Eric Show died, I balled like a baby and my “friendship” with him consisted of exchanging a dozen letters, talking on the phone once and eating lunch together once. But I still considered him a friend and somebody I had always expected to talk with again. It was tough to see him die so young and so tragically.

    I’ll miss Buddy. I already do. Very much so. But I’m also so grateful that I have all this great music he left me. That is my solace.

    I hope to meet you Friday at the service.

  • Joanie- You just keep letting that bitch out when she needs to. She’s fucking pissed that the rule was broken. She’ll settle down eventually. And I agree with what Candye said – friendship, like love comes in many forms. Its all precious and worth celebrating.

  • Sorry to hear about your loss.I did not know Buddy, however I feel I got to know him a little better in your article. Have you shared all this with a friend face to face? If you have not you might want to consider doing so.

  • After an informal poll of all my friends, the majority of them have declared rule #4 a great idea, if a bit impractical. All have promised me they’d wait until after I died before they would. I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be a good thing or not.

  • Steve

    yw, Joan.

  • Thanks to all of you. Sometimes I have to let the bitch out and run amok for a while. I think I’ve almost exhausted her. Let’s hope.

  • Steve

    Sorry to hear about your loss, Joan. Sometimes it’s the folks we don’t know so well, (the aquaintances?), that can make all the difference in our lives. Although given what you’ve told me, sounds like maybe he was a bit of a kindred spirit…you didn’t have to be around each other all the time, or known him a long time, to enjoy his company. Some people in our lives can be like that. I pray that the memorial service will set you on the right path through the grieving process, I’m sure it will.

  • I feel like a fucking baby for taking this so hard. We truly weren’t super close, but there was this special place in my world for Buddy. And, this is all coming way too close on the heels of almost losing someone to whom I AM super close.

    I feel like these tests are more than I can handle and I’m also a little pissed ’cause I feel cheated.

    I’m surly and snarly and I don’t like myself like this. Hopefully time with my kid will mellow me out a bit.

  • candye kane

    PS: who cares whether other people think the friendship is “valid”? Love is love, heart is heart and you obviously gave and got both from Buddy. I wish I could be at that memorial friday. i am playing in bisbee.

  • candye kane

    joan, i am so sad about buddy and reading your blog really makes me miss him. we didnt have as close of a friendship as you did it sounds like, but he emailed me funny stuff and really reached out to me in the last few years. i am gonna miss him. thanks for sharing this with us.

  • Joan,
    I’m sorry for the loss of your friend, though in one sense musicians never have to die.
    I don’t know that anyone can measure friendship by the number of times we see anyone or even the nature of those encounters. It’s more a sense of closeness and mutual appreciation that two people communicate to one another in some fashion in the time they do have to interact. It’s clear to me that Buddy Blue was your good friend and vice versa.